Scotland in the world
This week domestic politics have taken a back seat as people across the constituency and country express their condolences with those who have lost their lives and been injured in the attacks in Paris. We also saw a few days’ earlier horrendous suicide bombings in Beirut and before that, the plane full of Russian tourists brought down in what is also believed to be an act of terrorism.
The horror of these attacks on innocent people going about their daily lives brings home to us the threat to our freedom and our democracy and it is understandable that we feel frightened and worried. But this is what the terrorists want and they hope we will turn against others such as those who are also the victims of terrorism seeking refuge in our country and countries across Europe.
So this week when we see the first families from war torn Syria come to Scotland and the rest of the UK it is important that we are able to say welcome for these people are also frightened and worried and have been through horrendous circumstances to reach sanctuary.
This week I met with a group of care home workers and discussed with them Scottish Labour’s proposal to introduce the ‘Living Wage’ across the care sector.
These workers welcomed this announcement and they made the point to me that recruitment and retention of staff is impacted by the levels of pay and whilst they enjoy the work they do, being paid more than the minimum wage will make a big difference.
I agree, and have experienced first-hand having a family member be cared for by staff in the council and staff in the private sector and whilst both sets of carers were brilliant beyond the call of duty the fact was one group is being paid well above the living wage whilst the other is paid in the main the minimum wage.
The contracts for the care sector are paid for through local authorities and NHS boards and this is why it requires government at a national level to put in the resources that means that all staff in the care sector will be paid at a minimum the living wage. I have campaigned for this in Parliament and I am delighted that Scottish Labour will make this a key manifesto commitment in 2016.
Social Security in Scotland
I took part in the debate in the Parliament in the last week on the future of Social Security now that significant parts of welfare will be devolved to the Scottish Parliament. There was a consensus across the chamber that the Parliament should take the opportunity to develop a better social security system for Scotland and at its heart must be respect and dignity. I argued that the significant powers in this area that will now sit with the Parliament must be used as part of a wider strategy to tackle inequality and poverty and linked to regional programme for supporting people into opportunities through training, skills development and jobs.
In the week where we have seen the figures for food banks in Fife increase by a quarter it is important that we better understand what is creating such a need and what a modern social security system can do to tackle this. In other areas now being devolved such as the winter fuel allowances and cold weather payments I stressed it was important that we remain true to the principles of why these were introduced by Gordon Brown to support pensioners fuel poverty at the coldest times of the year.